Thursday, November 16, 2023

Philly Radio: KYW Anchor Sues Audacy For Gender Discrimination

Longtime KYW Newsradio morning anchor Carol MacKenzie is suing parent company Audacy for gender and age discrimination, claiming she has been “systematically” paid less than her male coworkers and those younger than her.

The Philadelphia Business Journal reports MacKenzie, 58, has been a morning anchor for the radio station since 2003. The lawsuit seeks back pay, liquidated damages, interest, costs, negative tax consequence damages, injunctive and declaratory relief, and attorneys’ fees from KYW. She is suing under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

Philadelphia-based Audacy declined comment. The company bought KYW, which is simulcast on 1060-AM and 103.9-FM, in 2017 as part of its acquisition of CBS Radio.

Carol MacKenzie
The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia on behalf of MacKenzie by Wayne-based lawyer Scott Pollins of Pollins Law, alleges that in the first several years of her employment, MacKenzie was paid roughly $20,000 to $30,000 less than “similarly situated” male coworkers.

In 2010, the lawsuit claims MacKenzie asked for a raise because she believed she was being paid less because she is a woman. The lawsuit alleges KYW management told her she couldn't have a higher salary than her male coworker, anchor Ed Abrams, implying that KYW “could not have a woman making more than a man.”

The lawsuit alleges that by 2011 at least two male reporters, John McDevitt and Ian Bush, who is about 15 years younger than MacKenzie, were making about $10,000 a year more than her. It also claims KYW offered employment agreements to Bush and McDevitt that same year but not to MacKenzie.

In the fall of 2014, KYW promoted Brandon Brooks to be a morning anchor at a significantly higher yearly salary than MacKenzie was making as a morning anchor, according to MacKenzie's complaint. The lawsuit claims KYW continued to pay MacKenzie significantly less than Abrams, Bush and Brooks over the next several years.

MacKenzie claims she found out Brooks was making about $30,000 more than her in 2018 and complained to KYW management about the gender-based salary inequity early the next year.

“KYW responded by lowering Mr. Brooks’ salary and modestly increasing her salary,” the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, KYW asked its highest-paid anchors and reporters to take a significant voluntary pay cut in the spring of 2020 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Audacy and the station, with MacKenzie agreeing to a $20,000 reduction in her annual salary.

Shortly after, despite a hiring freeze, the lawsuit claims KYW hired former NBC10 anchor Denise Nakano, about 15 years younger than MacKenzie, to be a midday anchor and paid her $20,000 a year more than MacKenize. In November 2020, anchor Jay Scott Smith was also making about $20,000 a year more than MacKenzie, per the lawsuit.

SAG-AFTRA, the union representing MacKenzie, conducted an investigation and audit of KYW’s compensation practices in late 2021 and early 2022, according to MacKenzie's complaint.

“MacKenzie believes the union’s investigation confirmed the systemic gender-based pay violations that KYW had engaged in for MacKenzie’s entire employment tenure,” the lawsuit states.

In her lawsuit, MacKenzie claims KYW offered a renewal of her employment agreement in late 2021 with yearly compensation of about $137,000 for 2022, $140,000 for 2023, and $143,000 for 2024. MacKenzie said she refused KYW’s offer because she believed these yearly salary offers were far less than Smith and Nakano were being paid. She signed a contract extension in early 2022 after KYW upped its offers to $150,000 for 2022, $152,500 for 2023 and $155,000 for 2024, according to her complaint.

The complaint claims all of the male or younger KYW colleagues mentioned in the lawsuit had similar roles to MacKenzie and that KYW’s pay decisions regarding MacKenzie were made for discriminatory reasons and not because of any bona fide seniority or merit system, quantity or quality of production or a factor other than gender or age.

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